Repentance: A Story
By: Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Rav Sholom Shvadron told the following story:
There was a man who had one son. The son was the joy of the man's life. When
the child got older, he child decided to move overseas. The man was greatly
saddened by the fact that the ocean would be separating him from his son.
While overseas, the son got married and had children. The father greatly
desired to see his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. The father
constantly wrote to his son that he should come visit with his family.
However, each time the invitation was extended, the son always replied that
for some reason or another, a visit just was not foreseeable any time in the
near future. Since this was the case, and the father's urge to see his son
just grew over time, the father wrote to his son that since it was difficult
for the son to make the trip, he would come and make the long journey to see
the son and his family.
From the time that the father decided he was going to make this trip, he was
busy with all sorts of preparations. The father's excitement grew as his
departure date drew closer. Finally the day arrived. He embarked the ship
laden with packages and gifts for his son and his family. Each day, the
father did not cease to think about the fact that he would soon be seeing his
son. From time to time, he would go on deck to see if they were nearing dry
land. One morning, when he looked out, he saw the coastline, and his heart
skipped a beat - he would soon be seeing his son! As the ship moved into the
port, he scanned the people standing around, hoping to catch a glimpse of his
son. However, he could not find him. He had no choice but to wait until he
disembarked from the ship, and then search for his son.
One can only imagine how distraught the father was when his son was nowhere
to be found. However, the father immediately gave his son the benefit of the
doubt. He assumed that his son must have been so busy preparing for his
imminent arrival that he was not able to meet him at the port. In order not
to waste precious time, the father rushed to the train station so he would
not miss the next train to the town where his son lived. Throughout his train
ride, he was sure that his son would be there to meet him at the station. His
excitement was building with each mile. When the train arrived at the
station, he ran off the train, not wanting to miss his son. His
disappointment with not finding his son there was greater than before.
However, now his thoughts were not so much focused on the fact that his son
might be busy with preparations. Instead, he started worrying: Did his son
get into an accident, was everything all right?
With a heart full of worry and anxiety, the father hailed a cab to take him
to his son's house. During the ride, he started imaging the warm reception
awaiting him at the house. However, this dream was shattered as well. When
the father arrived at the house, he found all the curtains drawn, and only a
faint light could made out in one of the rooms of the house. Again the
father started worrying. Was everyone healthy, did anything bad happen? His
hands trembled as he knocked on the door. He knocked and waited for an
answer, but there was none. He knocked again, this time harder, yet there was
still no answer. Finally after knocking for a third time, he heard a faint
"Who's there?" coming from the house. The father immediately recognized the
voice - it was his son, who he longed to see. His excitement was unbounded
knowing that the only thing that separated him from seeing his son was a
door. The father responded "It is me, your father who traveled from afar to
see you! Please, open the door!"
After a moment of silence, the son answered "Father, I have already removed
my clothes for the night. Would it be a great trouble if you could stay at
the hotel across the street tonight? I'm already in bed, and its a little
difficult for me to come to the door right now. I will pick you up first
thing in the morning." When the father heard this, he was despondent and
infuriated. He thought "For years I have greatly desired to see my son. I had
hoped that he would honor me and come visit me. However, that did not happen,
and I had to go visit him. I had no doubt that he would be there with his
children waiting for me at the port, yet he did not do this either. I thought
that perhaps he had a reason that prevented him from greeting me at the port,
but he would definitely be at the train station. He wasn't there. I finally
come to his house only to find it dark. I knock on the door, only to find
that my son is too lazy to even let me inside! After all this, I should wait
for HIM at a hotel? I most certainly will NOT do this! " The father hailed
the first taxi he could find, and went to the train station. He caught the
first train back to the port, and immediately got on a ship headed back to
his home, without even seeing his son.
The next morning, the son awoke. His heart was filled with remorse and regret
for how he had treated his father the night before. He quickly got dressed,
and ran to the hotel to find his father. The way the son felt upon
discovering that his father was not there cannot be described. To call it
anguish, remorse, or pain would only be an understatement.
Throughout the whole year, Hashem waits for the people of the nation of
Israel to return to him with a complete heart. Hashem sees that we are not
alacritious, and that we do not run to repent. Therefore, during this time of
the year, Hashem comes to us. These days are days of mercy, which makes it
even easier for us to repent, yet many people fail to take advantage of this
opportunity. Hashem comes to us, but we will not even open the door for Him.
Hashem not only gave us the month of Elul and the holiday of Rosh HaShana to
repent, but he gave us the "Ten Days of Repentance" as well. Our passing up
both of these opportunities understandably causes Hashem anguish, just as the
father was anguished when his son did not come to meet him. On Yom Kippur,
Hashem is knocking on the doors of our heart, greatly desiring to be let in.
Hopefully, we, unlike the son of the story, will at least do this, so we will
not have to regret our mistake later.
Check out all of the posts on Elul and Rosh HaShana. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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